Ramblings Of An Unrepentant Madwoman

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The Whole Glass Of Water (Part 5)

Parts 1 & 2 / Parts 3 & 4

Looking back on the past several years of his life, Derek can’t remember ever feeling more pathetic than he does right now, standing at the edge of a brightly-lit Target aisle and staring at a pair of sweatpants.

Derek doesn’t lounge. It’s hard for him to imagine the luxury. Not the time, so much; it seems that’s all he’s had in recent memory, long stretches of waiting in between bursts of violence. Waiting for an attack, waiting for the other shoe to drop, waiting for everything to finally just be over. He’s used to having time, but not without a strain of tension running through it, reminding him to keep his guard up. There’s an alarm on his door for a reason, and what’s the point of wearing clothes that won’t hold up if you have to run again?

And yet here he stands, with a box of cat litter in one hand and a new pack of tank tops in the other, because his last decent one finally bit the dust last week, staring at a pair of goddamn sweatpants like he’s choosing between the red pill and the blue.

Because things have been almost … quiet, lately. With the twins’ defection the Alpha pack is down to two, who’ve crawled off to lick their wounds and regroup, and they’ve all had a couple of weeks to go back to life as normal for once. More often than not Derek’s found himself with no sense of danger nagging at the back of his mind, nothing to occupy him but a quiet day on the couch, reading a book with the cat purring in his lap. And he’s been thinking that his jeans, tight enough to keep anyone from finding an easy grip to take his legs out from under him, might be as uncomfortable to sleep on as they are to wear.

It might be nice for Mo to stretch out on something softer, he thinks, and he can tell just from looking how soft these pants would be, how they’d warm with his body heat and tangle comfortably around his calves. It’s a tempting picture, and he finds himself reaching past the pale grey towards the back of the rack where the handful of remaining black pairs are hanging. Closer inspection, however, proves that there’s nothing but a few smalls and one 2XL left. Derek pulls his hand back, surprised by the disappointment curling bitterly in his stomach. It was just a whim, anyway. If they don’t have his size, it hardly matters.

He’s about to walk away when he realizes that they do have his size after all, hanging out of order at the front of the rack. Derek hesitates, unsure, eyeing the grey material like he’s sizing it up for battle, before he realizes that he’s reached a level of ridiculousness that he can hardly even believe exists. Is he seriously reconsidering an item of clothing that no one will ever see him wearing, because of the color of all things?

His one consolation as he snatches the hanger off of the rack and stalks towards the checkout is that at least no one was there to witness this particular failure of rational thought.

The pants get abandoned on his bed when he gets home, forgotten while he greets Mo with a thorough ear-scratching and scrounges up something to eat. He eyes the bank of windows as he eats a bowl of cereal, wondering how hard it would be to clean some of the grime away to let in a little bit more light. Checks his phone to make sure he hasn’t missed any messages about potential mortal peril. He spends a couple of hours sketching out an idea for a PVC piping run up near the ceiling, something big enough for a large cat but too small for a possible threat to follow after him; Mo likes being up high even if his survival instincts are shit, and Derek figures this will at least give him an even shot at coming out alive if the loft gets invaded again.

Finally Derek sighs, scrubbing a hand over his face as he stalks towards his bed. He doesn’t know why he’s making such a big deal out of this, why this stupid pair of sweatpants is making him think of nothing so much as a coiled snake. Before he can talk himself out of it he strips out of his jeans, feeling briefly foolish in just his t-shirt, underwear, and socks before he snaps the tag off of the waistband and pulls the sweatpants on.

They feel … good. Comfortable, but hardly momentous. He still feels like him; like nothing, after all, has changed except his clothes.

He honestly doesn’t know what he expected.

An hour later he’s sitting on the couch, holding a book in one hand while he rubs behind Mo’s ears with the other, when Isaac pushes the door open. He glances over, steps faltering when he sees Derek.

Uh.” He blinks once, twice, and Derek stifles a sigh when Isaac’s eyes dart down to his legs. “Having a night in?”

Nothing much else to do right now.” Derek lowers his book as Mo stretches out, giving a low, threatening grumble and reaching out towards Isaac in a bid for more attention. “Did you need something?”

A change of clothes. And, um.” He shifts his backpack on his shoulders, uneasy. “I was sort of thinking I might … crash here tonight. I didn’t think you’d be home, and you know.” Isaac nods at the cat in Derek’s lap. “Mo gets lonely.”

You know you don’t need to ask, right? This is still technically your place, too.”

Yeah. Yeah, I know, but I haven’t really been here much and I didn’t want to … presume. Or something.” He waves a hand towards the stairs. “I’ll just.”

Sure.”

He’s back down ten minutes later, in an outfit similar to Derek’s though the pants are short enough to skim the tops of his ankles. The shirt he’s wearing is an old one of Derek’s; he wonders how long it’s been since Isaac’s gotten clothes for anything but the image he’s determined to present to the world at large. He’s carting an ancient laptop under one arm, and hesitating at the bottom of the stairs.

The outlet upstairs is jacked again,” is the first thing he says, “and my computer doesn’t really hold much of a charge anymore.” He eyes the other end of the couch hopefully. “Would you mind if I plugged it in here to watch a movie?”

Derek blinks. “That’s … yeah, fine.”

Cool.” Isaac darts over, fiddling with the cord before he settles against the cushions and opens the computer. “I’ve got headphones, so—”

You don’t have to.” Mo has slid out of his lap like water, hind legs still draped over Derek’s thigh as he stretches across the middle cushion towards Isaac like he thinks he’s being sneaky; Derek buries a hand in the soft fur over his belly. “If you want to, that’s fine, but the sound won’t bother me.”

Oh.” Isaac glances at the screen, computer still slowly booting up. “Did you want to watch, too?”

Derek shrugs. “It’s your place too,” he says, digging his fingers in until Mo’s purring ratchets up higher. “If it bugs me, I can move.”

I borrowed Inception from Stiles.”

Really.” Derek doesn’t bother to hide the doubt in his voice. “And does he know about that?”

Isaac shrugs unrepentantly, placing the laptop on the coffee table.

It still counts as borrowing if I give it back,” he says. They sit in silence as he loads the disc, before his eyes dart over to Derek’s sweats again. “Are those new?”

Yeah.” Derek opens his mouth again, but closes it when he realizes he doesn’t really have anything else to add. Isaac just nods, however, and turns his attention back to the screen.

They look comfortable.”

I can pick you up a pair,” Derek hears himself offering before he knows he plans to say it. “Next time I’m out; just let me know.”

Cool.” Isaac’s smiling now, small but real. “Thanks,” he says, and starts the movie with a click of a button.

They have to turn the volume up all the way to cover the sound of Mo’s purring, and his occasional happy screech when Isaac reaches down to scratch beneath his chin.